What is good writing?
Let’s start with the obvious. Good writing has solid character development. It explores important or interesting ideas, and progressively builds an exciting story. It has meaningful and tightly-woven plotlines every page of the way. It’s made up of words and sentences that are sharp and to the point, yet descriptive enough to really get the reader to imagine the universe being created.
What good writing is not is scrambled metaphors that conceal incoherency (cough, Paulo, cough, Coelho). Good writing will never depend on countless flat, lifeless characters that are there for no reason beyond as many shocking tragic endings as possible.
And my friends, good writing is George RR Martin. While I would never say that he is among the best in the genre (he doesn’t even make it to top 20), he is definitely a good writer. Maybe a little confused, sure, but I enjoyed the “A Song of an Ice and Fire” books tremendously when I read them almost ten years ago (a little secret: I enjoyed them so much I even took a few days off work just to binge read).
And you know what feeling I never felt as I devoured 1.5 million words?
I never felt shock at surprise twists, at tragic fates, or at convoluted plotlines because none of the books were about shock.
What I did feel was an assortment of other feelings.
I felt amazement at the rich, vivid and believable world. I felt love towards some of the characters, who were skillfully developed chapter-to-chapter. I felt satisfaction at the underlying theme of universal duality — life isn’t simply good OR evil, it’s usually a bit of both. And most importantly… I felt pleasure at George RR Martin’s lack of creating stupid, implausible plots just to save important characters.
Amusingly, it is this last thing that seems will be the undoing of a potentially-great fantasy series, very much in thanks to all the trigger-happy show watchers, who have been brainwashed by Hollywood to appreciate unexpected plot twists over good character development, rich worldbuilding, and meaningful ideas.
How many times in the past two months have you heard…
“It’s becoming so predictable.”
“I’m not enjoying it anymore, everyone made it alive to the end – no violent deaths this season!”
It is these sorts of comments I’ve been hearing on a daily basis that make me feel really bad for George RR Martin. Every such comment is like nails in the “Could Have Been a Fantasy Masterpiece” coffin, in the “Cheap Thrills” graveyard.
Ultimately, good writing isn’t about cheap thrills. It isn’t about shocking the audience. Dude, that’s why there is FIVE “Sharknado” movies.
So for the sake of all that is good in all the fantasy worlds out there, please shake the bullshit Hollywood-trained expectations out of your head.
And just enjoy the story.